God & Happiness in the Poor South

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A couple reports from the NYTimes tell the tale…

New York is dead last in a study published this month in Science Magazine ranking the happiest places in America. Researchers focused on two sets of information:

One was a survey of 1.3 million Americans done over four years by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which asked people about their health and how satisfied they were with their lives. Those self-assessments were stacked against “objective indicators” borrowed from researchers at U.C.L.A. They included state-by-state variances on quality-of-life gauges like climate, taxes, cost of living, commuting times, crime rates and schools. When the two sets were blended, the economists discovered that the subjective judgments closely tracked the objective ones. In other words, people knew what they were talking about when they said if they were happy or not.

The findings suggest we like sunshine, clean air, reasonably priced housing, and painless commutes. Three out of four knock California down to 46. Louisiana ranks 1st; Mississippi 6th. Juxtapose that to this Pew ranking of the religiosity of states:

The polling organization recently released rankings on the religiosity of the states, based on 2007 survey responses to four questions: the importance of religion in people’s lives, frequency of attendance at worship services, frequency of prayer and absolute certainty of belief in God.

Mississippi is the top-ranked in all four polling categories; Louisiana is 4th. Only two of the top 10 are outside of the South and those — Oklahoma is 7, Kentucky 10 — only marginally so. The least religious are New Hampshire, Vermont, Alaska and Maine. New York is 39.

For curiosity I looked up poverty rates. Mississippi ranks highest in the nation; Louisiana a close second. More evidence that money doesn’t buy happiness.

Discuss.